Britain’s biggest ever drug smuggling gang has been smashed after billions of pounds worth of narcotics was brought into the UK, the National Crime Agency believes.
Officers arrested 13 men aged between 24 and 59 on Tuesday across the country in dawn raids.
The NCA seized 351 kilos of cocaine, 92 kilos of heroin, 250 kilos of cannabis and 1,850 kilos of hemp/hashish, with a total street value of more than £38 million, in three consignments in September 2018.
Investigators believe more than 50 tonnes of drugs worth billions of pounds were imported from the Netherlands, between February 2017 and October 2018, hidden in lorries carrying vegetables and juice.
Jayne Lloyd, NCA Regional Head of Investigations, said: “We suspect these men were involved in an industrial-scale operation – the biggest ever uncovered in the UK – bringing in tonnes of deadly drugs that were distributed to crime groups throughout the country.
“By working closely with partners here and overseas, in particular the Dutch National Police, we believe we have dismantled a well-established drug supply route.”
The arrests were made in London, Manchester, Stockport, St Helens, Warrington, Bolton, Dewsbury, and Leeds.
Four men and two women from the Netherlands, who were arrested in April this year as part of the same investigation, are awaiting extradition to the UK.
“We have got the top people in the group,” said Ms Lloyd.
“We believe it’s probably the biggest conspiracy that’s been seen in the UK.”
Investigators believe the arrests have disrupted the flow of drugs into the UK to be sold on by “county lines” gangs, who often use children as dealers.
“Taking out this suspected organised crime group… will make, hopefully, a huge impact in relation to protecting the public and the economy,” said Ms Lloyd.
“You can see from where they’ve been arrested that the potential was that significant amounts of drugs coming into the UK would go to various areas in the UK.
“We would be looking at vulnerable individuals who would then supply the commodity on behalf of other organised crime groups.”
The investigation is linked to an earlier NCA operation where 13 people were jailed after the seizure of more than 100kg of heroin in 2015.